Bill aims to protect people in land disputes

A measure that would protect individuals who are found after federal surveys to be trespassing on federal land has been reintroduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

The measure, H.R. 6288, would require the Bureau of Land Management to give 30 days notice to all property owners whose property is near federal land that is to be resurveyed. The measure also would give an affected private landowner the right of first refusal to purchase land discovered to be federal property that had been treated as private land.

It also would require the agency to reimburse for the fair market value of any significant improvements they made to the land. Additionally, the private landowner may not be charged with trespassing for occupying the property without knowing that the land was owned by the federal government.

A Mesa County company was fined $255,000 in 2012 after a BLM survey determined that a gravel pit was actually on federal land.

Farmers and ranchers across the West have faced fines and criminal charges, or have been forced to relinquish property they believed to be their own, after BLM resurveys and reclassifications of federal land, Tipton said.

“The families who have lived and worked on the land for multiple generations shouldn’t be punished for survey errors that were originally made by the federal government.”

The measure is dubbed the Resurveys Entitle Adjacent Landowners (REAL) Protection Act.

A previous version of the bill has failed to move forward but Tipton’s office said it can take several tries before a bill gains traction in Congress and that Tipton will continue to carry such measures.


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